SBME PhD student Beth Castle has been named a 2021 Vanier Canada Scholar. Titled after Major-General Georges P. Vanier, the first francophone Governor General of Canada, the Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship is awarded to graduate scholars who exemplify academic excellence, research potential, and leadership.

Beth, a Halifax transplant, is a student in Dr. Peter Zandstra’s lab studying blood stem cell generation. Her path to the Zandstra lab began during her Undergraduate and Master’s programs in virology at Dalhousie University. Her studies led her to the exciting area of mechanobiology, where she delved into how mechanical forces in the cellular environment impact cell behaviour. It was here that Beth had the opportunity to work with biomedical engineers who showed her that, by designing certain systems, we can better understand complex mechanical signals.

“From there,” Beth adds, “I searched for a cellular biomedical engineering lab, Peter Zandstra’s lab was a perfect fit for the high-level, interdisciplinary research I was looking for, and here I am now!”

Beth’s current research focuses on understanding how interactions in the cellular, mechanical, and biochemical environment impact the generation of blood stem cells and downstream blood cell types. She stresses that understanding these as systems enables a more informed approach to innovation in cellular engineering, like whether to include or remove certain signals to produce the blood cell type of our choice.

Beth loves how the Zandstra lab and SBME have exposed her to so much diverse science.

I have gained new appreciations for different techniques and approaches, experienced new ways of thinking about scientific problems, and seen the process of how lab-based science can be translated into products through the biotechnology industry.

Beth Castle

Beth is honoured to be named a Vanier Scholar, and grateful for her support circle. This grant validates the importance and purpose of her work, and she is ready to push the research forward in a meaningful way that transforms medicine.

Beyond her research, Beth Castle knows how important fostering a sense of community is—at SBME and beyond—in strengthening research, mental health, and overall happiness. She is a staunch advocate for mental wellbeing in academia, having facilitated open conversations with fellow students about their struggles, and stepping in as an adviser for SBME’s Mental Health Matters session. Beth also hopes to co-produce a new podcast that introduces young scientists and their journeys to curious listeners.

Congratulations Beth from all of us at SBME. It’s world-class researchers like you who are going to change health and healthcare for everyone.

What to hear more from Beth? Check out her interview on the SBME Interfaces podcast here.